MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah (ABC4) – It’s a big day for Navajo Nation as more residents will soon have access to water after a nearly 20-year battle. But Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez says this is only a ripple in a reservoir of change.
An opening prayer led by Dr. Avery Denny set the tone to an important day for the people of the Navajo Nation.
“When you bless things, you will be successful, and so we’re looking for a successful rollout of this much awaited Navajo Nation water rights settlement,” says Myron Lizer, the Navajo Nation Vice President.
U.S. Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, Senator Mitt Romney, Governor Spencer Cox and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez along with other leaders gathered at Monument Valley in Utah on Friday to sign an official settlement for water rights.
“I learned how precious water is, when I spent time with my grandparents in Mesita, growing up, we lived without running water and hauled our water in buckets, every morning and every evening,” says Haaland.
Haaland is the first Native American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary federally. She says her grandparents got running water back in 1975 but this year, still nearly half of Navajo Nation residents trek a similar road.
“This has been many years, many decades in the making, it’s not the finish line, it’s actually the start, it’s the start of getting infrastructure, water, into the homes of our Navajo communities,” says Nez.
The Nation is getting more than 220 million dollars to provide infrastructure and water to people here and this agreement settles all current and future claims by the Nation for water rights within Utah.
“The biggest issue I think we face in the state, is what we’re going to do if we continue to have drought conditions, and what kind of changes are going to have to be made to assure that we do have plenty of water for all the people that rely on the water we drink,” says Romney.
Nez and Gov. Cox say they are hopeful, but further planning for infrastructure is needed as many homes are sprawled throughout the vast Nation.